It’s RNA’s world-we just live in it

Fans of the origin of life and all things evolutionary will recall the RNA World hypothesis. [1] Stated simply, it holds that the whole apparatus of DNA, tRNA, ribosomes mRNA and associated enzymes is just too complicated to have arisen at once. Information Theory alone would suggest an earlier, simpler stage, when something was taking bits of chemical out of the primordial soup and organising it into simple chains of amino acids. If only for something to do-there was no TV or internet back then.

Whatever it was must have been a simpler, no frills version of the ribosome, that little molecular engine that builds all the proteins we use to live. A hypothetical protoribosome, for want of a better word. But could such a thing have arisen itself from the primordial soup? Now two independent teams of scientists suggest the answer could be a qualified “yes”.[2] Nature Briefings has this summary and link, The molecule that kickstarted life

For more than 15 years, scientists have been on a quest: create a functional ‘protoribosome’, a reconstructed version of the protein-building machine that many think might have helped to kickstart life on Earth. The modern ribosome is a key ingredient of life as we know it because it translates genetic information into proteins. At its heart sits a small RNA pocket that some think might be closest to what the very first ribosome looked like. Now, there’s proof that some reconstructed protoribosome-like RNAs can link amino acids — the first step to making proteins. Some scientists say there are other ways for proteins to emerge, without a ribosome. But others are already thinking about repurposing these simple machines to manufacture new kinds of biomolecule.Nature | 12 min read

You can praise this on all kinds of levels; cutting edge intellectual research, awesome techniques and even the possibility of something useful in areas like research or medicine growing out of it. But for the romantic in us, it offers a possible glimpse into the origins of life in a dark sea as the asteroids still smashed down, long long ago.



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